So Paul’s first two albums were ripped by the critics. He was almost universally blamed as the one who “broke up The Beatles.” His former band mate, closest friend, and writing partner, release two amazing albums, constantly ripping him in the press and then preserved forever on his “Imagine” album.
So now he announced he’s forming a new band, with relatively unknown musicians and also in it, his new wife, who was NOT even a musician. The fans, and the music world in general just couldn’t comprehend this decline from Paul.
Even George Harrison, had released his first true solo release (the three record opus “All Things Must Pass”) to rave reviews, huge sales and massive hit singles..
And the world had conspired on him, coming up with the zany notion that he had died in 1966 and been replaced by a surgically altered look-a-like. Yikes…. These factors had reduced Paul’s self confidence and street credibility to just above nothing.
Paul had always wanted to keep The Beatles together. At the height of the Let It Be filming tension he had wanted them to return to their roots, maybe just “show up” at small clubs and rediscover the fire of their early Hamburg days. George and John thought him daft at such a suggestion, and the rooftop performance was the best, last bone they would throw him.
But Paul still yearned to be in a tight band, that performed live, and got that immediate feedback and love of a concert audience. So the decision to form his new band, a very safe band, no super group band (which were huge at the time) was the thing that drove him forward.
After the totally solo low-key work of McCartney I, the incredible effort and time put into finishing Ram, he went into the studio with Linda, and the two Denny’s and very quickly (eight recording sessions in total) and knocked off some of Paul’s newest songs.
Paul has always been too aware of what the critics said and wrote and what was happening around him and in the music business in general…
With Wings first release, Wild Life, the problems here were twofold. One, these songs were among the weakest he had ever written. Maybe not fully flushed out or realized in the studio. Not awful, just not being in the caliber of anything in his entire canon of work. Two, though never a user of hard drugs (maybe a little rooty toot in the 70’s) in his career, this next two year period saw a much greater use and effect thereof of the killer weed, marijuana.
He had become quite the drinker after the Beatles breakup and hid himself inside the bottle for a very brief time until Linda shook him to sensibility. Instead, I think to hide the pain and fears at the time, a lot of his creative ideas (and there were a lot if them) and lack of follow thru and fulfilled expectations came from Paul and Linda’s love of all things smoke. Forget the drug busts that would follow the next decade. Weed was a day to day thing, and maybe even more in the studio and when composing.
So, on December 7th, 1971, to little or no fanfare, Wild Life was released.
I heard nothing of its release at the time…
I remember being in a car and hearing a bit of “Love Is Strange” on the radio…thinking, that sounds like Paul. When the song ended, the DJ said that it was indeed Paul’s new band, new single from his new album. I went to the store and bought it soon after….
The album cover is beautiful and captures the relaxed country feel of band, and the McCartney’s life at the time.
Everyone looks great, and the doves released are a surprise and I suppose are the “wings” in the photo.
The only problem, not a mention of the band on the front cover,
So unless one spots Macca’s face on the record store shelves, one wouldn’t pay it any mind. They later stuck a sticker on the cover to alert any buyer that it was Wings.
The back cover is B&W drawing by Paul, with a fake press release by Clint Harrigan (really done by Paul himself)
[ When Paul and Linda McCartney were in New York recording ‘RAM’ they needed a drummer so they found a sweaty old basement in the West 40’s and invited some drummers to play on a battered old drum kit. One of those who turned up and went straight for his tom toms was Denny Seiwell, a tall type with eight generations of drummers in his family, who played well and left the drum kit throbbing. After that, Paul, Linda and Denny played together on ‘RAM’ and then each took off for a holiday.
The Macs returned to Britain and during the time following wrote a bunch of songs at their country retreat.
When the time came to go recording again they rang Denny Laine, a Birmingham lad, and asked him if he was coming out to play. Replying in the affirmative he brought his faithful guitar, and he and the Macs, along with Denny S. (who had arrived from the States as if by magic carrying his wife who was drunk again) and his drums, proceeded. They rehearsed for a while, sang some old songs, wrote some new ones and in time headed for the big city studios. In three days they had laid down most of the tracks and by the end of a couple of weeks the album was finished.
In this wrapper is the music they made. Can you dig it?]
Paul brought his demos of the songs he wrote into the rehearsals for the album and the band worked on them, jamming as well, getting to know one another. Linda, who had been shown the basic on piano, had also been taking formal lessons.
The engineers for the WILD LIFE recordings were Tony Clark, assisted by a young Alan Parsons, who went on to much bigger and better things by the decades end.
Of the eight songs which made the final album cut, the first take was used on five of them. Again, another complete change from the approach and care he took on RAM.
The Songs of Wings WILD LIFE
“Mumbo” As the band jammed away Paul liked what he was hearing and he shouted out at Clark, “Take It Tony.” This is the start of the album. Paul screams out scat like vocals, with Linda on organ frills. Seiwell’s drumming drives the track. The double tracked guitars by Paul and Laine give this track some edge. Not a bad start. Rating – 6.0
“Bip Bop” A slight shuffle, with Paul’s altered voice and bass out front. The lyrics are bare. One of a few on this album that the band kicked ass live in future concerts in 1972….but this wasn’t live. A song about going out and having fun, but in disguise. It’s a toe-tapper but lean, lean, lean. Linda’s background vocals don’t add much..
Rating – 5
“Love is Strange” Taking the basic idea of Micky and Sylvia’s 1950’s hit and then changing most of the lyrics and adding a reggae tempo. The first single released in England and then quickly pulled back due to poor response. It takes too long to get going. Again, not bad, just not very good. The best band vocals on the album Rating – 5.75
“Wild Life” The title track, about a visit to an African wildlife park, and how people need to respect them.
Live, on their 1972 Wings over Europe tour, this one really shines. It goes on a bit too long for my taste. It always bothered me when Paul calls them “aminals, not animals.”
Interesting background vocals….the beginning of the Wings sound we all came to love. Rating- 5.5
“Some People Never Know” Another slight dig at John and Yoko? Not sure?…but this is one of the highlights of the album for me. Beautiful melody and very nice harmony vocals. Interesting play out by Denny Seiwell’s percussion. Laine’s solo in the middle is very George Harrison. Paul’s lead vocals are pushed back in the mix a bit too much. Rating – 7.0
“I Am Your Singer” Short and sweet. Linda gets her first lead lines…. Paul brings in five musicians on recorders for the middle break and end fills. Paul’s bass, as always, drives the mid-tempo pace.
“Bip Bop” (link) Paul’s first link!!! He’s had a load of them through the years. Paul on acoustic guitar for 52 seconds.
Okay….but not a needed track. Rating 4.0
“Tomorrow” Another of the better songs, with classic Wings harmony. Decent lyrics about taking advantage of some time to escape (a fairly common Paul theme). He ends with a 30 second coda of the refrain. Rating – 6.5
“Dear Friend” Paul offers his hand to John to end the war of words in the press and in their music. Not entirely without a jab or two (Are you a fool….or is it true?). Richard Hewson is brought in to do the orchestration (he had just done THRILLINGTON). The best song on the album, but it goes on a bit too long…. Rating – 7.5
“Mumbo” (link). Ah..another link… Paul’s pulsing bass sounds promising at the beginning and then suddenly the song dissolves and ends at 53 seconds.
Did we need this? Rating – 4.5
The two links make the album look fuller, but it is basically the eight main songs….The overall album, including the links comes in with a rating of 5.75.
Again, this seems right. It is not a bad album, but for a first album by a NEW band led by a former Beatle….this should not have been it.
Paul justified this album by telling the story of him in L.A. one day and a hippie van pulled up next to him. A man leaded out the window and yelled to him while holding out a copy of WILD LIFE…. “Hey Paul, we’re going up to the mountains, and we’re taking this with us. It’s the best thing you’ve ever done.”
He really hadn’t found his way as of yet, and any positive feedback seemed to justify his decisions.
The creator and host of the McCartney podcast “Paul or Nothing,” Sam Whiles, has said that the live songs included in the deluxe archive edition should have been the main core of their first album.
More care in the songs, more time in the studio and maybe……the critics and fans wouldn’t have ripped him a new one. This one sold decent for most artists, but not for a Paul McCartney record. His worst sales and no singles from a time when new artists were taking over the scene (Zeppelin/Elton John etc..)
He was now zero for three out to the box post breakup.His NEXT plan…. Fill out the band…. Release a batch of new stand alone singles throughout 1972 and then take the band out on the road…. He did all of these. But all decisions at this point were clouded in that acrid smoke.
Up next… Wings adds a new member, the unreleased songs from this period and those 1972 singles. And the first Wings tour…. If that’s what you want to call it.